Complete Guide for GRE Analytical Writing Section

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In the GRE exam, the Analytical Writing section is included to evaluate the critical thinking and analytical writing skills of the candidates, which is reflected by the ability to express complex ideas clearly and effectively. It does not test your specific knowledge about the topic. So the opinion which you present is no right or wrong answer.

Duration 60 minutes
Number of Question 2 essay


Skills tested

  • Your ability to understand, develop and support complex ideas.
  • Your control over the word choice and usage.
  • Your ability to maintain a focused, connected, and coherent discussion.
  • Your ability to formulate and evaluate arguments.
  • Your control over the conventions of grammar and sentence structure.

Types of questions in the GRE Analytical Writing section

In the Writing section, there will be two different kinds of essays. They are Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument. For each essay, you will be given 30 minutes to complete it. Here are the details about them:

Analyze an Issue

You will be given an issue statement that can be viewed from several different angles. You will be directed to adopt a position on the issue and to develop and support that position. Here you are required to write an essay in which you respond to a brief statement over an issue of general interest. This task evaluates your skills of thinking critically about a topic and expressing or presenting your thoughts in writing.

Analyze an Argument

The arguments will be given in a brief paragraph which presents the author’s opinion or case. You need to ascertain if it is logically sound and evaluate it. Your task is to prepare an essay in which you have to analyze a paragraph-length argument. However, you don’t have to present your own views on the argument's topic. This task evaluates the ability of the student to understand, analyze, and evaluate the arguments.

Keep in mind that the first essay requires you to present your stance and provide supporting evidence, while the second essay requires you to evaluate someone else’s opinion or case. 

GRE Essay Topics

The GRE essay topic that shows up on the real test is already published on the official ETS website. But there are close to 200 topics in total which are far too many to practice responses in advance. Just scanning through the given lists of topics will give you a proper idea about the types of issues and arguments which can be asked on the official test day. Most of the topics which are asked in the Analytical Writing section of GRE can be broadly divided into five categories

  1. Education
  2. Government/Politics
  3. Arts
  4. Sciences and Technology
  5. Philosophy

Here are the secret tips and strategies which will help you in the GRE EXAM: Top 10 Most Important GRE test Day Tips to Ace the Exam

What do the examiners look for in your essay?

The elements examiners look for in answers of the Analytical Writing section of GRE are:

1. Clarity

Clarity is the most important factor, and also the most basic of all other factors on which the examiners judge your essays. The examiner should understand what you are trying to say, by reading your essay once. They will think that if it can be understood with just a single reading, then your essay has clarity. If you jumble your words, or simply throw in unnecessary words you will lose marks. So, make sure you have valid points and clear logical reasoning which can be easily understood.

2. Structure

The way an essay is structured has a huge impact. Your essays should read like a story, something which can be easily understood. So, it is important that you divide your essay into separate paragraphs, each having its own meaning and context along with maintaining a smooth transition between the paragraphs. You should prepare a structure in mind before you start writing the essay. The general structure is to start with an introductory paragraph followed by 3 to 4 body paragraphs and complete it with a conclusion paragraph. So, ensure that there are at least 5 to 6 paragraphs in your essay if you want a solid score in this section.

3. Sentence Variety

Even though you are writing several paragraphs on the same topic, you should not use similar or the same sentences again in the essay. Using sentences with the same structure and length can sound lifeless, and will bore the reader. You should keep changing the sentence structures, flow and rhythm by switching between short and long sentences. You should also make use of conditional and signal words to change sentence openings and endings.

4. Vocabulary

The essay section only tests how logically you can understand the information and write a reasonable analysis about an issue or an argument made by someone else. As long as you use valid reasons, correct grammar, defend your point and use proper vocabulary to convey meaning effectively, there is no need to use heavy vocabulary in your essay.  You can follow this for your vocabulary: How to improve GRE vocabulary?

5. Reasoning

Reasoning plays an important role in determining the overall quality of your essay. You should always include as many logical reasons as you can to support your thoughts. The essay written by you should be able to convince the examiner by means of reasoning. Anyone who reads your response should be totally convinced of your point of view without having second thoughts. So, you should have the ability to connect your ideas properly to the main idea of the essay.

6. Evidence

In order to make your essay sound reasonable and logically sound, you will have to provide sufficient evidence. If you want to impress the examiners and convince them to agree to your point of view, you will be required to provide convincing evidence to back up your thesis. Give evidence, either direct or indirect, and connect them with the essay. You can even create your own examples and evidence, as long as they fit and don’t sound too random. Develop examples that strongly support your thesis to a high essay score.

General GRE Analytical Writing Assessment Tips

There are some important GRE writing tips you should know in the GRE analytical writing section.

1. Read the directions properly

Read the given instructions properly before starting your essay. There may be something important you need to take care while writing it. Make sure to read the given directions, do not just scan them. 

2. Manage time well

You will be given 30 minutes for each essay to complete. To make the most of your time, we advise you to divide the time of the writing section like this:

  1. 2 minutes to read the instructions given
  2. 3 minutes brainstorming, outlining, and writing a thesis statement.
  3. 20 minutes writing the body and stating the examples of your essay.
  4. 2 minutes to find and edit small mistakes like grammatical errors.
  5. 3 minutes to write an introduction.

 You should go through this, as it will help to manage the time  properly in the exam: Time management of  3 Hours 45 Minutes in the GRE

3. Practice as much as you can

When you will open the Guide for preparation of the essay section, you will see several sample essays. Practice as much as you can, but as you work to improve the quality of your essays, keep in mind that the more high-quality stuff you write, the better. You can practice with these Materials: Free Online GRE Preparation Material

Issue Essay: GRE Writing Tips

Here are a few tips for issue essay writing in this section:

1. Come up with pro/con statements

To do this, make a list of statements that either support or talk against the statement. Then, select the side whichever you think has the best statements. You should not take more time to do this. Practice this until you can make it within a minute.

2. Choose aside

Based on what you have written in your pro/con statement, pick the side which has the best points to argue. It doesn’t matter what you actually think about it in real life, all that matters right here is that you should pick the side you can easily write on. Ensure you state it as part of your thesis statement. Give proper examples which support this point of view.

3. Make a concession point

Here you will also need to give a concession point which means you have to bring up an argument from the opposite side of your essay which may be true in some cases. The instructions will not tell you to do this exactly but it is the best to explain both the sides of the issue but make sure to stick to your main argument.

Argument Essay: GRE Writing Tips

Here are the few tips for The Argument Essay in the Analytical Writing section of GRE : 

1. Identify the assumptions

To analyze an argument, you will need to find out what assumptions the writer is making and show why they are unjustified. Concentrate on one of these tasks at a time, start by finding where the assumptions are stated in the given passage.

2. Find the logical fallacies

After you have found all the assumptions in the given argument, you will have to analyze the argument. For this you will need to be familiar with the types of logical fallacies you will come across in Argument prompts of GRE. There are lots of logical fallacies, you will need to identify the most important assumptions, then describe the types of logical fallacies the writer is making. 

3. Select your examples carefully

You can write a high scoring essay by including only 3-4 examples from the prompt in your essay. As you write, remember that your examples should always be points about the prompt that support your overall argument in the GRE essay. 

So now you know how to prepare and crack the Analytical Writing Assessment Section. So do your best keep all the tip in your mind and crack it well.

All the best..!! 

Get information about other GRE sections as well

Verbal Reasoning Section of GRE

Quantitative Reasoning Section of GRE